Charging elk have gored two women in the last two weeks in St. Louis County, Missouri because the women have tried to get really close to the elk to take selfies.
The scene of the carnage has been Lone Elk Park, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Approaching the herd of elk living inside the 546-acre wildlife management area is an exceptionally dangerous move right now because it’s the middle of mating season (August to December). Male elk are extremely aggressive during this time.
Park managers have posted signs warning people not to approach the elk. Specifically, the signs say: “Absolutely do not approach the elk!”
Other signs warn people to stay at least 100 feet from the elk.
Still other signs say: “Elk mating season: Use extra caution.”
Exactly none of these signs appear to have had any impact on the two women who got gored.
A nature photographer, Kent Burgess, watched the most recent elk attack occur on Sunday.
Burgess said he watched a group of four people (two women and two men) wandering down a trail toward the dominant bull elk. He heard the bull elk croon his — surprisingly high-pitched — mating call.
“It was startling,” Burgess told the Post-Dispatch. “I saw the dominant bull moving toward them and I tried to yell at them to get away.”
Burgess said his call to his own species was a vain gesture.
Next, he said, he watched the bull elk move toward the human foursome. The elk fiercely charged. Its antlers made contact with a woman’s arm and, apparently, her face.
“There was a lot of blood on her arm and on her face,” Burgess told the Post-Dispatch.
He noted that he helped the four people get to a safe place away from the elk herd.
“I was so upset,” Burgess told the newspaper. “I just want people to know what can happen when you get so close.”
The second incident in Lone Elk Park occurred on Saturday, Sept. 30.
In the earlier incident, an elk savagely connected its antlers with a woman’s lower back after she decided it would be a good idea to get really close to the herd.
The woman ended up in the hospital with a hole in her back. (Her spine was not affected.)
“Some people unfortunately think elk are this gentle, tame animal, but that’s just not true,” St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation Tom Ott told the Post-Dispatch. “They are wild animals. These people who are walking up to them are asking for trouble.”
Included among the many photographs which accompany the Post-Dispatch is a photo of a father taking a snapshot of his two sons — age 7 and 8 — while they stand perhaps 12 feet from an elk.
“The elk didn’t look aggressive,” the father told the Post, “but if it had shown any sign of aggression, we would have headed back into the safety of the car.”
Lone Elk Park was established in 1966. Legend has it that the federal government had previously attempted to destroy wildlife herds in the area. But one bull elk managed to survive.
Roads through the park allow people — in vehicles — to see elk and bison (and deer and turkey) roaming about in nature.